Statement on the situation of lawyers in Turkey
On this day, 5 april 2020 – celebrated as Lawyers’ Day in Turkey – Lawyers for Lawyers takes the opportunity to strongly condemn the on-going crackdown against lawyers in Turkey.
Lawyers for Lawyers has asked attention on many occasions for the worrying situation of lawyers in Turkey. Lawyers in Turkey have been subjected to judicial harassment, including mass arrests, violent attacks, threats, surveillance, unfair trials and harsh sentences. Many lawyers who provide assistance in representing political opponents or taking on politically sensitive cases are being arrested on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities. Lawyers are being targeted solely because they are carrying out their professional activities. The use of “mass trials” against lawyers or lawyers’ associations is frequent and fundamental rights and procedural safeguards are often not respected.
According to the latest information received, more than 300 lawyers are currently detained in Turkey under terror-related or political-related charges. As a recent example, in March 2020, the houses and offices of multiple prominent human rights lawyers from Turkey were raided and their computers were seized. The lawyers were all taken into police custody and later released. They were arrested on suspicion of “assisting a terrorist organisation” through enabling communication between detainees in prison.
Furthermore, we have grave concerns about the wellbeing of lawyers detained in Turkey at the moment in connection to COVID19 crisis. We understand that an amendment in the penal system in Turkey has been discussed on 31 March to release a large number of prisoners in order to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Turkish prisons. However, it is reported that those who have been imprisoned for certain charges including terror-related accusations are exempted from benefitting from this regulation. This means that amongst others, lawyers who were detained or convicted of terror-related accusations will not be benefiting early release. Lawyers for Lawyers urged the Turkish government to respect the principle of equality in any legislation concerning the imprisoned, to include lawyers who are detained under terror-related or political-related charges in the measures regarding the outbreak of COVID19.
Lawyers for Lawyers condemns the deteriorating situation of lawyers in Turkey and urges the Turkish government to uphold the rule of law and bring an end to the persecution of lawyers. All lawyers who have been unduly detained for carrying out their professional activities should be immediately and unconditionally released.
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